OIL, WAR, AND AMERICAN SECURITY: The Search for a National Policy on Foreign Oil, 1941-47 by Michael B. Stoff

OIL, WAR, AND AMERICAN SECURITY: The Search for a National Policy on Foreign Oil, 1941-47

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During World War II, the federal government tried and failed to develop a ""coherent"" national policy on foreign oil through the agency of an Anglo-American entente--which, if successful, might have reduced U.S. vulnerability re offshore energy sources, though it probably could not have prevented the tilt in the balance of petro-power. Aware that domestic reserves would be depleted in the conflict, Stoff (History, Texas) relates, the Roosevelt Administration early on searched for ways to secure alternate supplies--for the postwar period as well. One possibility was a federal corporation that would assume ownership of a large percentage of the concessions held by U.S. firms in Saudi Arabia and other Mideast lands. This organization, Stoff recounts, was to be a key element in an agreement with Great Britain whereby the two powers would effectively allocate world oil reserves among ""peace-loving nations"" in the postwar era. A pact acceptable to both sides was duly drafted; but with FDR's death and Churchill's electoral defeat, it lost important patrons and finally died at the hands of independent U.S. producers who resisted imposition of government controls beyond the state level in the Senate. By default, Stoff asserts, the major oil companies were allowed, even encouraged, to go their own way, and crude supplies were secured--but through a series of unregulated arrangements among private concerns whose commercial interests did not necessarily match those of the nation. Three decades later, Stoff points out, it is apparent that the security and order thus achieved ""brought only ephemeral safety."" He also reports the savage fights between Interior's Harold Ickes (""the perfect bursar for the nation's natural wealth"") and, among others, Cordell Hull of State (who had a mind ""that approached new ideas as if they were intruders"") and Texas' flamboyant, egotistical Tom Connally. Densely footnoted but completely accessible--and surprisingly readable too.

Pub Date: June 11th, 1980
Publisher: Yale Univ. Press